Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I don't have a lot to say about the McChrystal mess; you can find plenty on any political or foreign policy blog. It was a dumb thing for McChrystal to do, and it appears he has realized that a bit late.

I've just got a couple of things to say about it. First, this was the modus operandi for generals during the Bush years. We'll listen to the generals on the ground. No, they didn't dis Bush the way McChrystal's staff dissed the present administration. Why should they, when Bush was encouraging them to go their way. I recall any number of times when generals spoke out in ways that I thought were above their pay grade, and all too often it seemed that tactics were driving strategy. So things changed, and McChrystal's view of how things are done didn't.

But, for all that, it's not exactly a McArthur moment, when a general threatens to start waging the war of his choice, complete with nuclear weapons. And Truman gave McArthur more than one chance. We tend to recall only the last one. So I agree with John Cole that Obama will do well to make his best decision on what's best for the country, not what is the most macho (or whatever else the pundits are using for a criterion).


J. said...

"Why should they, when Bush was encouraging them to go their way" Not the way I remember it. The Army generals were abused and misused by Rumsfeld, he kept them either terrified of being fired or wearing kneepads in front of him. The only generals who spoke out were the retired ones.

This isn't McChrystal's first offense either. Could be the third, if you count distorting the Tillman issue and his first soundbite against Obama last year. Time for him to go.

Cheryl Rofer said...

I'll still go with the best choice for the country. That could be accepting McChrystal's resignation.

Cheryl Rofer said...

J., the business about "listening to the generals on the ground" is what I'm talking about. Although Rumsfeld may have been a bully, I kept being amazed (being a Clausewitzian) at the lack of strategy and concern for political goals, which is what the civilians are supposed to supply. The tactics just kept going like the Energizer bunny.

Anonymous said...


Yea, agreed - that's what happens when domestic political considerations drive the strategy bus.

As for McChrystal, I think he has to go, one way or another simply because of the precedent. McChrystal is a warfighter, not much of a political general so rather than compare him to MacArthur, I'd compare him to Patton. Unfortunately, the position he currently occupies needs an Eisenhower.

One aspect of this story that hasn't been covered much is the lack of unity of command and unity of effort. McChrystal, Eikenberry and Holbrooke each seem to control their own Kingdoms, but there isn't any single authority over them ensuring they play nice and work together. That is something the President needs to address ASAP.